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‘Earthshot Prize,’ Tasmanian devil return, Native American expertise: 3 stories you may have missed

© Heng Wang

Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. The UK’s Prince William launches a 10-year “Earthshot” to inspire action 

The Duke of Cambridge just launched the biggest environmental prize ever created. 

The story: Prince William of England recently launched the “Earthshot Prize,” an initiative that will fund new ideas to protect nature and slow climate change, reported Our Daily Planet. In collaboration with Conservation International and other partners, this prize will award five different winners US$ 1.3 million each year for the next decade to support their work in a variety of categories, including projects that focus on protecting and restoring nature, cleaning the air and stopping climate breakdown. 

The big picture: “In the face of our current crises, our world needs both hope and action right now — and His Royal Highness Prince William’s commitment to recognize and support the big ideas needed for a safer, more resilient planet offers both in spades,” Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan told Our Daily Planet. Experts agree that nature conservation and climate mitigation is currently vastly underfunded — and that increased financing is critical to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The biggest environmental award ever created, the “Earthshot Prize” could offer the financial support scientists, businesses and experts need to prevent environmental collapse over the next decade. 

Read more here.

A small marsupial predator could help rebalance Australian forest ecosystems. 

The story: Conservationists recently released 26 captive Tasmanian devils into the forests of mainland Australia in an effort to grow their populations and rebalance the entire ecosystem, reported Jason Bittel for National Geographic. In the 1990s, this small marsupial species was decimated by a contagious mouth cancer on the Australian island of Tasmania, leaving only 25,000 left in the wild. Following an intense conservation effort to rebuild their populations in captivity, a small group of Tasmanian devils were recently reintroduced into mainland Australia’s Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary. Scientists hope these predators will balance the ecosystem’s food chain, which has been negatively affected by invasive species.

The big picture: Since they were brought to Australia hundreds of years ago by European settlers, invasive feral cats have wreaked havoc on the continent’s biodiversity, decimating populations of small mammals and destroying native plants. Experts say that the presence of Tasmanian devils will force the cats to hunt during the day, which could help protect Australia’s nocturnal mammals such as bandicoots and quolls. These mammals are crucial to dispersing seeds and digging up the leaf litter that, left alone, could fuel Australian wildfires. 

Read more here

Indigenous fire management techniques could help prevent severe wildfires in California. 

The story: Experts agree that Indigenous peoples’ fire management techniques could be the key to preventing future wildfires on the West Coast of the United States, reported Jill Cowan for The New York Times. For centuries, Native American tribes in California have intentionally set small fires under colder and wetter weather conditions to burn excess vegetation that could exacerbate wildfires during the dry season. In the midst of a record-breaking fire season — which has burned through more than 1.6 million hectares (four million acres) of California — state government officials and firefighters are turning to these tribes for guidance on how to prevent future wildfires. 

The big picture: “Native American tribes, tribal governments, traditional practitioners and their communities bring thousands of years of traditional ecological knowledge,” Barnie Gyant, deputy regional forester for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest region, said in a statement. To successfully manage fires through controlled burns, experts say it is essential to understand the ecological characteristics of an area, including how the wind affects the fire’s on a certain geographic or how it might impact plant growth. For Native American tribes in California, this type of knowledge has been passed down for many generations — and will be crucial to inform fire management policies across the entire West Coast. 

Read more here

News spotlight

A coalition of more than 32 fashion groups, including Kering and Adidas, the Fashion Pact recently announced seven new targets to slow climate change, conserve biodiversity and protect the world’s oceans. Focused on reducing fashion’s environmental footprint, these targets include using 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and supporting zero deforestation by 2025.


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: Mountains in Turpan City, China (© Heng Wang)

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